Post-classical history

Balak (d. 1124)

Nûr al-Dawla Balak ibn Bahrām was a chieftain of the Turcoman Artûqid dynasty, whose members had arrived in the Near East with the Saljûqs.

Balak was the nephew of īlghāzī (d. 1122), lord of Mardin and later of Aleppo (1118-1122), and served with him in many campaigns against Frankish and Muslim powers alike in the first two decades of the twelfth century. In 1113 Balak made his headquarters at Kharput (mod. Harput, Turkey) in the area of Diyar Bakr, controlling a vital route for the Turcoman recruits who provided much of the military strength of the Muslim dynasties of Syria, Mesopotamia, and Iraq. In 1122 Balak besieged Edessa without success, but on 13 September of that year near Saruj, he defeated and captured Joscelin I, count of Edessa, and Waleran, lord of Bira.Balak also seized Aleppo from his cousin Sulaymân ibn īlghāzī and ruled there ruthlessly (1123-1124), callously killing hundreds of its inhabitants.

In April 1123 Balak’s troops surprised King Baldwin II of Jerusalem, who had come north with an army in an attempt to rescue Joscelin and his comrades. This was a major blow against the Franks, since Baldwin was not only the ruler of Jerusalem, but was also acting as regent of the northern Frankish states of Antioch and Edessa. The king was sent to join the other Frankish captives in Kharput. While Balak was away, some Armenians seized control of Kharput, and Joscelin escaped. However, Balak was able to recapture the city and massacre most of the Franks, sparing their leaders, who were transferred to Harran. In October 1123 Joscelin attacked Aleppan territory. Balak united with the forces of Damascus and Mosul and attacked the town of Azaz, but was defeated by the Frankish forces during the winter. He was killed on 6 May 1124 while besieging the castle of Man- bij, fearing the alliance of its Turcoman lord with Joscelin of Edessa. Aleppo passed to his cousin Timûrtash ibn īlghāzī.

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